Copyright Dispute between Zee and Saregama

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In a recent Copyright infringement case, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (an Indian media and entertainment company) moved the Delhi High Court alleging infringement by Saregama India Ltd (an Indian music label and content producer for Indian television) over Zee’s copyright on songs from 29 movies. According to Senior Advocates representing Zee, the Plaintiff (Zee) has the copyright to broadcast these 29 movies and songs from these movies. Saregama India Ltd has allegedly exploited Zee’s copyright over these songs from 29 movies by way of playing the songs and allowing internet users to download them.

Interpretation of the Allegation

Zee, in its plea said Saregama India (Defendant) has been misrepresenting itself to be the copyright assignment holders of the sound recordings as well as audio visuals of the songs incorporated in the 29 movies, whereas, the rights to the recordings exclusively vests with Zee. Senior advocates representing Zee contended that Saregama (Defendant), as per their reply to the legal notice preceding the suit, claims assignment of copyright by the producers of the movies (in question) in the year 1981. During 1981, the medium of recording was only in the form of LPs (long playing vinyl record or phonograph).

Referring to the section 18(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the representatives of the plaintiff contended that the assignment of 1981 could not have vested in the Defendant the right to exploitation of the copyright in the “medium” or “mode” of recording that did not exist and was not in commercial use in 1981. The Plaintiff (Zee), sought to injunct the Defendant from exploiting the copyrighted works through CDs, DVDs and magnetic tapes. The Court enquired, whether or not, technological advancement in sale of music in the form of LPs as existed earlier to now CDs, DVDs and magnetic tapes would not fall within the meaning of “medium” within provision of Section 18(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Actions

The Court, on December 23, 2016, held that the aforementioned contention requires due consideration and refused to grant injunction with respect to CDs, DVDs and magnetic tapes. On the contrary, the Court passed injunction restraining the Defendant from exploiting the “medium of ring tones” and “internet”.

The Delhi High Court further asked Saregama to deposit Rs. 20 lakh subject to which, the Defendant, shall, till the further date of hearing be entitled to stream the said music on its website and to permit download of songs as was being done but shall not be entitled to grant any new or fresh licences with respect to the said works. The Court listed the matter for further consideration for Jan 24, 2017.

Conclusion

This order does not provide a clear justification as to why or how CDs, DVDs and magnetic tape mediums differ from the internet and ringtones. A clear rationale is awaited until the next date (Jan 24) of decision. However, it is believed that if the sought injunction is granted with respect to CDs, DVDs and magnetic tapes this case would have an impact on the media companies.

Read the order here.

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